Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The Association of American Universities on Wednesday announced a five-year effort to improve the quality and effectiveness of undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, focused on the 61 U.S. and Canadian research universities that are its members but in tandem with similar initiatives in other sectors of higher education. The AAU plan, more details of which can be found here and here, was announced by the group's new president, Hunter S. Rawlings. It seeks to spread the use of existing, successful methods of teaching undergraduates (not just STEM majors) in math and the sciences, through demonstration projects and other means. “A number of our universities are already leading the way in developing and implementing these new ways of teaching," Rawlings said in a news release. "But there is a long way to go, and there is an urgent need to accelerate the process of reform.”

The AAU effort won early praise from several Obama administration officials in a post on the White House's blog.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

A national survey of college students at four-year colleges and universities has found that many college women are in, or witness to, abusive dating relationships. The findings include the following:

  • 43 percent of dating college women report that they have experienced abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, technological, verbal or controlling abuse.
  • 29 percent of college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.
  • More than half of college students who report experiencing dating violence said it occurred in college.
  • 58 percent of college students say they wouldn't know how to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse.
  • 38 percent of college students say they wouldn't know how to get help for themselves if they were victims of dating violence.

The survey was released by Love Is Respect, a group that promotes education and policies to promote healthy and non-abusive relationships.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Most state directors of community colleges are predicting cuts in state support this year, according to a new survey released today by the University of Alabama Education Policy Center. Other findings:

  • Tuition is expected to increase in most states, with a median projected increase of 5.6 percent -- more than double the inflation rate.
  • A majority of states expect flat funding for state financial aid programs.
  • In 21 states, high unemployment rates have depleted state job training funds for displaced workers.
Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Brian Foy of Colorado State University explains his work with a drug that could revolutionize mosquito control in malaria-ravaged areas. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies approved legislation on Wednesday that would fund the National Science Foundation at $6.7 billion in fiscal year 2012 -- 2.8 percent less than the budget for fiscal 2011, and less than the flat-funded NSF budget approved by the House Appropriations Committee in July.

The legislation would also provide $680 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, $70 million less than in fiscal 2011. It would eliminate funding for Technology Innovation Program grants and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which helps organizations -- including colleges -- improve their efficiency and competitiveness.

The full Appropriations Committee will meet to debate and amend the legislation today.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Peter Lepage, dean of arts and sciences at Cornell University, on Wednesday released a letter in response to recent allegations by alumni of the Africana Studies and Research Center that the university is treating the center in ways that are "regressive and colonial in nature." Lepage said he wanted to assure alumni that the center would soon launch searches for three to five faculty members over the next two years (building on a faculty of eight), and that funds would be provided to create a Ph.D. program. Lepage said he wanted to provide "reassurance and optimism" about the center's future.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Costs most commonly incurred by colleges rose in 2011 at greater than the national rate of inflation and more than twice as much as they did in 2010, according an annual report by the Commonfund Institute on what it calls the Higher Education Price Index. The index, which includes factors such as faculty, administrative and staff salaries and fringe benefits, services, supplies and utilities, aims to calculate an inflation rate that more closely captures higher education spending than does the national inflation index. In 2011, according to the Commonfund Institute, those costs rose by 2.3 percent, above the 2.0 percent national inflation rate and far above 2010's 0.9 rate for the higher education index. All categories of costs except for administrative salaries and service employee salaries rose, the institute said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Adrian College in Michigan must make broad improvements to its women’s athletics programs – including the addition of at least one sports team and a locker room in its multipurpose stadium – under a settlement between the college and the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The Resolution Agreement, which was first reported in the Title IX Blog, would bring the college into compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which Adrian was accused of violating in two separate complaints filed with OCR in 2007.

It’s not unusual for institutions found in violation of the federal legislation prohibiting sexual discrimination to have to make changes in multiple areas, nor are Adrian’s inequities unique.But, as Title IX blogger and Western New England University associate law professor Erin Buzuvis pointed out in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, it is “somewhat unusual” that Adrian must remedy inequities in nearly every program area covered under Title IX. By June 1, 2013, the college must survey and evaluate its female students’ athletic interests and abilities, and address several shortages and inequities in women’s equipment and supplies; scheduling of games and practice times; locker rooms, practice times and competitive schedules; coaching; medical and training facilities; publicity and recruitment.

Among the specific requirements, the college must: boost the number of events in which women’s teams compete to equal that of men’s teams; provide each team with complete practice and game uniforms, including warm-ups and rain gear at levels equivalent to men’s teams; provide recruitment funds to teams in proportion to that gender’s participation rate, or at higher levels for women’s teams, because females are underrepresented in Adrian’s athletics programs; and assign the same number of qualified medical and training personnel to teams of each sex based on the needs of the sport.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education must have experience working at a college or university and must hold an advanced degree, according to an opinion issued this week by Dustin McDaniel, the attorney general. The opinion largely quotes from statutes that outline those qualifications. In the case of advanced degree, the statutes state that the director should have degrees similar to those who work at colleges and universities. Two Republican legislators requested the opinion after Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, recommended that the next director be a former state senator, whose highest degree is a bachelor's degree. While that candidacy was withdrawn, the dispute has continued. A spokesman for the governor told the Arkansas News Bureau that the Republicans who requested the opinion were seeking "a pricey national search at taxpayer expense."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Students who favor affirmative action took over a press conference on Tuesday that was designed to question the way race and ethnicity are considered in admissions to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. The press conference was by the Center for Equal Opportunity, but its officials left when students arrived. The students then proceeded to talk about the value of diversity.


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